Routing and scheduling optimisation under uncertainty for engineering applications

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The thesis aims to develop a viable computational approach suitable for solving large vehicle routing and scheduling optimisation problems affected by uncertainty. The modelling framework is built upon recent advances in Stochastic Optimisation, Robust Optimisation and Distributionally Robust Optimization. The utility of the methodology is presented on two classes of discrete optimisation problems: scheduling satellite communication, which is a variant of Machine Scheduling, and the Vehicle Routing Problem with Time Windows and Synchronised Visits. For each problem class, a practical engineering application is formulated using data coming from the real world. The significant size of the problem instances reinforced the need to apply a different computational approach for each problem class. Satellite communication is scheduled using a Mixed-Integer Programming solver. In contrast, the vehicle routing problem with synchronised visits is solved using a hybrid method that combines Iterated Local Search, Constraint Programming and the Guided Local Search metaheuristic. The featured application of scheduling satellite communication is the Satellite Quantum Key Distribution for a system that consists of one spacecraft placed in the Lower Earth Orbit and a network of optical ground stations located in the United Kingdom. The satellite generates cryptographic keys and transmits them to individual ground stations. Each ground station should receive the number of keys in proportion to the importance of the ground station in the network. As clouds containing water attenuate the signal, reliable scheduling needs to account for cloud cover predictions, which are naturally affected by uncertainty. A new uncertainty sets tailored for modelling uncertainty in predictions of atmospheric phenomena is the main contribution to the methodology. The uncertainty set models the evolution of uncertain parameters using a Multivariate Vector Auto-Regressive Time Series, which preserves correlations over time and space. The problem formulation employing the new uncertainty set compares favourably to a suite of alternative models adapted from the literature considering both the computational time and the cost-effectiveness of the schedule evaluated in the cloud cover conditions observed in the real world. The other contribution of the thesis in the satellite scheduling domain is the formulation of the Satellite Quantum Key Distribution problem. The proof of computational complexity and thorough performance analysis of an example Satellite Quantum Key Distribution system accompany the formulation. The Home Care Scheduling and Routing Problem, which instances are solved for the largest provider of such services in Scotland, is the application of the Vehicle Routing Problem with Time Windows and Synchronised Visits. The problem instances contain over 500 visits. Around 20% of them require two carers simultaneously. Such problem instances are well beyond the scalability limitations of the exact method and considerably larger than instances of similar problems considered in the literature. The optimisation approach proposed in the thesis found effective solutions in attractive computational time (i.e., less than 30 minutes) and the solutions reduced the total travel time threefold compared to alternative schedules computed by human planners. The Essential Riskiness Index Optimisation was incorporated into the Constraint Programming model to address uncertainty in visits' duration. Besides solving large problem instances from the real world, the solution method reproduced the majority of the best results reported in the literature and strictly improved the solutions for several instances of a well-known benchmark for the Vehicle Routing Problem with Time Windows and Synchronised Visits.
Date of Award28 Sep 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsUniversity of Strathclyde
SupervisorAnnalisa Riccardi (Supervisor) & Massimiliano Vasile (Supervisor)

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